Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Discussion of The Obsession by Nora Roberts

Carolyn:  Okay, so obviously I didn't cancel my pre-order and actually I'm glad I didn't. This was a good book, classic Nora, and the first third was even better than The Witness.

Have a blurb:

“She stood in the deep, dark woods, breath shallow and cold prickling over her skin despite the hot, heavy air. She took a step back, then two, as the urge to run fell over her.” 

Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous. No matter how close she gets to happiness, she can’t outrun the sins of Thomas David Bowes.
Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, a rambling old house in need of repair, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the kindly residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up—especially the determined Xander Keaton. 
Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But the sins of her father can become an obsession, and, as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.

Lori:  I'm going to agree that the beginning of this book was better than almost anything I've read recently, and yes, better than The Witness. It was freaking brilliant.

And spoilers ahead: the book was damned good but there was no way that it could start as it did and not be a bit of a let-down. Because the book starts with a 12 year old Naomi following her father into the forest and discovering that he's a serial killer. I mean, come on. Right there that's brilliant.

But it gets better.

Because that little girl saves her father's newest victim, gets her to safety and brings her father to justice. Right there we know: Naomi is the baddest-ass heroine that exists. Boom! Mic drop. Story's over. Tip your waitress on the way out. 

Carolyn: I'm not sure that's a spoiler, the blurb sorta gives it away. I have to say, as soon as I finished this book, I just had to re-read The Witness and came to some conclusions. 

Yes, the first part of The Obsession wins hands down, IMO,but comparing heroines, I found Abigail much more appealing than Naomi, and Abigail's hero appealed to me more than Naomi's (except for his name). Brooks is a beta hero, in control of himself, his life and ultimately his heroine. I don't mean controlling; perhaps a better word would be content, although that isn't right either. Nothing throws him, not Abigail's quirks, her intelligence, her eccentricities. And, most importantly, he lets her save herself; he doesn't fight her plan, he has trust in her. 

I didn't get this same vibe from Xander. He verged on over protective but perhaps he was right to do so because Naomi wasn't as logical as Abigail and I was always afraid she'd do something TSTL. However, I did like her character growth throughout the book; it was steady and logical and I believed she had overcome her hangups.

Lori:  I didn't find anything about Xander to be heroic and I think that was part of his problem. He sees a hot chick. He makes moves on the hot chick. He falls in love with the hot chick. And so what?

So big huge honking fucking spoiler right here

seriously avert your eyes...

The only reason why Naomi didn't kick the killer's butt and Xander did was because otherwise he was completely non-essential to the plot.

In fact, I'm going to stick my neck waaaaaaaaaaay out there and say that this book was a good literary suspense novel. Or a woman's lit novel or whatever subgenre you want to call it but as far as romance it was pretty ho-hum. Xander brought nothing to the story except that he had big guy hands and he liked to read.

To be blunt, I felt like Naomi could have fallen for any number of different men and for any number of reasons. The stoner gardener (what was his name, Carolyn?) would have been a lot more fun as a romantic hero.

Carolyn: His name was Lelo. And I agree with you about the genre of this book; it's not so much romance as a thriller or suspense or a combination thereof.

And I don't mean to sound as if I disliked this book. I enjoyed it immensely. It's really well written, with great characterizations and not as many 'Nora quirks' as usual. It's just that I think The Witness is the better book by a slight margin. 

These two books are her best, IMO, with Public Secrets coming in third. (That's another book that's hard to categorize.)

Lori:  So what I didn't like wasn't that much. In fact, probably I can condense it down to three basic things.

1. The beginning was strong, crazy strong, and the rest of the book didn't maintain that strength.

2. The hero wasn't interesting. He had all the prerequisites but he was much too paint by the numbers and not very heart felt. It might have been more interesting if he'd been a little less perfect or had a quirk. 

3. The killer was obvious and although I think Nora might have been trying to make it suspenseful, it wasn't. The moment he showed up in the story it was like, "oh... him." Not that he wasn't well done. He was. He was just not very interesting either.

Okay. There's a number 4. The renovation of the dream house. So, here's the thing. 2 women I work with are currently renovating their homes.   And listening to someone talk about their plumbing or color schemes is damned dull. A book where that's so front and center is like a conversation that goes on much too long.

But there were things I really liked about this book. I didn't love it but I liked it a lot and it was a really good read.

I liked Naomi. She had the proper amount of screwed up in being who she was. Had she been not messed up, I wouldn't have believed her.

I liked her profession. Unlike the tedious house talk, the photography information was well dispersed and interesting. When she was totally into it, I believed that she was into it and I was in there right with her.

I liked how Nora showed the heavy toll of having an infamous monster in the family. This is not a life for a weak person and both Naomi and her brother Mason were great characters who learned to cope in very different ways. 

Carolyn: See, I liked the home improvement parts. I don't think they were overdone, any more than the photography was. I mean, read the Boonsboro trilogy and then tell me if you think it was overdone in this book. Lord, the hotel was the real protagonist in that series and yet, I still enjoyed reading about the renovations, I think because it's something I'll never do and I truly admire people who have the imagination and get up and go (and money) to carry it through. 

I adored Mason and found myself wondering, as I read, if he would have his own book. I know he won't; these books (romantic suspense) are always stand alones but I would definitely fast click on a book about Mason.

And although I agree with you about the hero, I still enjoyed reading about him and enjoyed him and his care for Naomi. Naomi herself - I felt for the child Naomi, but my feelings for the adult Naomi were borderline. She tiptoed along the edge of being unlikable but never quite fell over.

All in all, I think we can both say we enjoyed this entry into the Nora empire and this is one book I'll definitely re-read. Now Lori, you need to read Public Secrets, another of her books that is not 'romance'. One of my favorites, as I said.

The Obsession was well worth the money, which is neat since I'm too damn impatient to wait for the MMP prices. (I just looked up The Witness and the mmp is $5.08 and the Kindle is $7.99 on Amazon. What's with that? I would love a peek into publishers' little minds - what on earth are they thinking??)


  1. So I'm reading Public Secrets right now and I'm just going to say that the story is great and all but the murderer again is obvious immediately.

    Does Nora intend foor her murderers to be so easily figured out?

  2. Maybe she's channeling a 'Columbo' episode. You always know who the killer is at the start.

  3. Since I may yet read this one, I'm avoiding all reviews for now. I did have to skip to the end, and the question about pricing.

    Personally, I think that publishers are playing it at both ends: more people read digital than ever before, and many now read exclusively digital, so the full price means more money in the coffers. It also mean that readers who read both formats will likely go for the less expensive, which will boost the print sales numbers, which traditional publishers still think of as the 'be all' of publishing.

    Not that I have opinions or anything...

  4. That thought occurred to me too, AL, but it just seems so 'in your face'and it doesn't factor in folks like me who need the ereaders to read the damn printing! Oh, but I forgot, money is the be all and end all and all that matters.

    I don't think Nora particularly tries to hide the identity of her villains; it's more like she gives their thinking processes as a juxtaposition to that of the hero/heroine. Other writers do this too and in the right hands it can be a fascinating process. Good vs Evil makes for a good story. :-)

  5. Good v evil is always a great story.

    This morning I was listening--for the millionth time--to The Search, and marveling as how quickly and how deeply I'm sucked in by the story. I seriously want to challenge people who think Stephen King is the best writer ever, to read the first chapter or two of that one, or of The Witness or a number of other of NR's books, and see if they aren't just as invested in her characters as they are on anyone else's (if not more).

    Publishing: I think they'll continue to shoot themselves in the foot steadily, and that indie/self publishing will continue to increase, precisely because there are a lot of people out there who prefer/need the digital version over the print one. Competition will help the consumer, as it usually does.